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Unlikely Volunteer Finds New Opportunities

Sep 19, 2016 | News

Jeff Haller

Jeff Haller

When Jeff Haller moved to East Ridge, he never envisioned raising his hand and volunteering. After selecting East Ridge, he and his partner, Lee Goldsmith, quickly settled in to the life plan community and he joined many of the exercise classes that were available.

“The exercise classes helped me meet people. I’d see my neighbors in class and then later in the dining room,” he explained. “Getting involved like this was a good first step.”

Both Jeff and Lee are avid opera aficionados and last summer, Lifestyle managers Virginia Duggan and Marla Gonzalez, approached Jeff and encouraged him to think about a program he could introduce.

“Opera Haters” was born, he explains. “I thought it would be interesting to introduce people to opera and help them learn to appreciate this art.”

As word spread, attendance quickly grew and “Opera Haters” was renamed with a more appropriate description, “Opera Converts”. Participants would listen to an opera and discuss it and then as a group go to local opera performances. Jeff arranged group discounts for tickets.

“I am glad to see that so many maintained their interest.  When we went to a performance at South Miami Dade Cultural Arts Center last summer, there were 18 of us. “Opera Converts” programs are on hold this summer as many participants are on vacation and will resume in the fall. Needless to say, Haller met more residents though their participation in the class.

In May, resident Barbara Sims recruited Jeff to become editor of the community’s newsletter, The Villager.

“While I was concerned about the amount of time that was required, The Villager has an eager team of resident contributors that I work with for monthly content,” he said.

Being the editor has made Jeff more aware of what’s going on at East Ridge.

“I may not participate in a class but I’ll go to check it out and write about it,” he added. “It’s fun to share my observations and infuse my enthusiasm.”

Haller believes his life is guided by the adage about a half full glass. He feels his glass is ¾ full. He takes advantage of the convenience of having the Wellness Center within East Ridge and exercises at least 4 times a week, participating in Balance and Flex, Sittercise, and Water Aerobics.

He has volunteered on the Town Hall Lifestyle Committee, a group that assists Virginia and Marla in developing East Ridge activities. For Haller, this committee seemed the most interesting to contribute.

“I love where I live,” he said. “There are so many interesting people here and their life stories are fascinating.”

He’s considering running for the East Ridge Town Hall chairmanship when the elections are held in December and has been busy learning the more about its functions.

Lee particularly approves of Haller’s involvement. “I’m glad he is doing the things he enjoys.”